Bible Reading Plan – August 20-26
Bible Project Reading Plan (August 20-26):
2 Chronicles 25-36, Matthew 1-6, Psalms 77-83
Genealogies play an important, if overlooked role in the Bible and in teaching theology. As we have recently studied in Genesis, the genealogy in the 5th chapter demonstrates the extension of the curse to all of Adam’s prodigy, while the genealogy of the 10th chapter provides insight into God’s graciousness, as again the world becomes populated. The genealogies of 1 Chronicles are a way of re-telling the history of the nation up to the time of the kings. Yet, still, a genealogy might be a somewhat surprising way to start of the good news of Jesus Christ. After all, the gospel broke down the concept of genealogical inheritance: it was not the physical sons of Abraham that were to inherit the Kingdom, but those who were his children through faith (cf. Matt 28:16-20; John 1:13; Gal 4:21-5:1).
Yet, this genealogy is important, and holds treasures for us about Jesus as we begin to read his story:
- Jesus, as the Gospel opens, is declared to be the son of David. This places him directly in the line of the faithful (and, indeed, unfaithful) kings of old, and hints at his rightful place on the throne. While not completely disappearing, this particular theme slides into the background until Jesus announces himself as King by forcefully fulfilling Zechariah 9:9. It is the center of his trial and crucifixion (the center of the Gospel), and becomes the ironic theme over his death (see Matt 27:32-44). Importantly, David is mentioned both first and last. He is mentioned before Abraham in v. 1, and he forms the structure of the entire genealogy, as Matthew explains in v. 17 that there were three different 14-generation segments. 14 just happened to be, by the way, the numerical amount of the name of David. Lest we miss it: Jesus is the King.
- Jesus is likewise declared the son of Abraham. He stands as the rightful fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham. While this theme is best mined out of the Gospel upon further careful reading, and indeed explicated further in the NT in general, Matthew gives us hints of it here. Jesus stands throughout the Gospel as the nation of Israel, the seed of Abraham and the fulfillment of the promise that God has made to him (cf. Gen 15:1-16, especially the promise to bring Abraham’s offspring out of Egypt in vv. 13, 16; Hos 11:1, and Matt 2:13-15). Jesus, like Israel, is taken out of Egypt, is tempted in the wilderness, and knows the presence of God as he comes through the water. He is THE seed of Abraham (cf. Gal 3:16).
- Oddly highlighted in the genealogy is not just that Jesus stands in the line of heroes, such as David and Abraham, but of sinners. The sordid and disquieting relationship of Judah and Tamar is mentioned (Gen 38). The brief mentioning of Uriah, murdered by David, is a certain reminder of David’s failure. Amos (likely the OT’s Amon) was one of the worst kings, not only re-establishing idolatry across the land, but practicing the same violence that his father Manasseh did prior to his repentance (see 2 Chron 33:10-17). So wicked was he, his own servants took it upon themselves to murder him (2 Kings 21:23). Jesus was not to run from the history of sin and evil that filled the past of Israel. Rather, he was to show his power in overcoming and forgiving it.
- Further, the genealogy goes out of its way to mention women. Tamar (v. 3), Rahab (v. 5), Ruth (v. 5), and Mary (v. 16) are all explicitly mentioned; Bathsheba is obliquely mentioned as the “wife of Uriah”. Why mention these women at all? Certainly Matthew doesn’t need to, if the main goal of the genealogy is simply to recall Jesus’ genetic line. Perhaps Matthew does so to highlight sinfulness, whether of the women (Rahab was, after all, a prostitute, and Tamar prostituted herself) or of the men (Judah was more in the wrong than Tamar in the whole affair, not to mention David’s lust, cover-up, and butchering of a faithful servant). But these are likely additional aspects. Each of these women are praiseworthy. Rahab is by all accounts an laudable example of faith (James 2:25). Ruth’s devotion, patience, and kindness are even more exemplary given the nature of the times in which she lived. Even Tamar’s deception leads to her eventual justification in the eyes of Judah (Gen 38:26). While women do not play the important role in Matthew’s Gospel that they do in Luke’s, it is clear that Matthew understands the important role that women play in bringing forth the gospel, and by placing of them inside the genealogy, especially as they often highlight the sinfulness of the men around them, only serves to highlight their nobility and honor.
Genealogies might not be the most riveting narratives to read. They lack a clear cut plot, heightened tension, and seem at times to be nothing more than data dumps. But, when done well, they have a wealth of devotional material for us to consider. Friends, do not rush in reading the Gospels, or you will miss much to help you understand the Jesus who has saved you.